Contemporaneity and communion: Kierkegaard on the personal presence of Christ

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Søren Kierkegaard’s claim that having faith requires being contemporary with Christ is one of the most important, yet difficult to interpret claims across his entire authorship. How can one be contemporary with a figure who existed more than two millennia ago? A prominent answer to this question is that contemporaneity with Christ is achieved through a kind of imaginative co-presence made possible by reading Scripture. However, I argue, this ignores what Kierkegaard thinks about Christ as a living agent, and not a merely historical agent. By drawing on Kierkegaard’s discussion of Christ’s true presence in the sacrament of Communion, I argue that contemporaneity with Christ should be understood in the same way as any other intersubjective relation. That is, I argue, that just as relating to any living person as contemporary requires a kind of two-way attention-sharing, relating to Christ as contemporary, on Kierkegaard’s account, requires a kind of two-way attention-sharing with Christ.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-62
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Kierkegaard
  • Luther
  • Contemporaneity
  • Presence
  • Christ
  • Intersubjectivity


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